By Paul Brennan | Iowa Watchdog
DES MOINES, Iowa — The Drug Enforcement Agency has removed a Des Moines man’s house from the National Clandestine Laboratory Register after Watchdog.org investigated how the residence was placed on the list by mistake.
Paul Valin’s home was listed as a former meth lab for the past two years thanks to shoddy paperwork.
Valin found a backpack while kayaking on the Des Moines River in 2012, and immediately called the police after he opened it and saw meth-making equipment inside. That was enough to get Valin’s home listed as the site of an abandoned meth lab on the NCLR.
The NCLR website states very clearly that neither the DEA nor the Department of Justice takes any responsibility for the accuracy of the information included in the NCLR. Most of the information on the NCLR comes from Clandestine Laboratory Seizure reports local law enforcement agencies file with the DEA.
In Valin’s case, the report the Des Moines Police Department filed with the DEA didn’t include any details about where or how Valin found the backpack; it just stated that meth-making equipment had been recovered at his address.
Valin had no idea his home was on the NCLR — or even that the NCLR existed — until a reporter working on a story about meth-contaminated homes contacted him in January.
Valin immediately began to try to get his house removed from the NCLR, but had no success.
Iowa Watchdog contacted the DEA’s El Paso Intelligence Center, which compiles the NCLR, about Valin’s case and provided the center’s public information officer, Special Agent Eric Neubauer, with a copy of the DMPD’s case investigation report regarding the backpack.
Unlike the report the DMPD filed with the DEA, the case investigation report contains the details of where and how Paul Valin found the backpack.
In less than 72 hours, Neubauer was able to get Valin’s home removed from the NCLR.
“It does restore your faith a little,” Paul Valin said when Iowa Watchdog told him the good news.
He added, “But it does make you wonder how many other mistakes there might be on the list.”
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